Parkland & JBLM

How Joint Base Lewis McChord Cooperates with Parkland and other Surrounding Communities

           1280px-Map_of_Washington_highlighting_Pierce_County.svg When someone comes to visit the city of Parkland, WA they may be a little wary because of the negative reputation that has been perceived about Parkland. Despite having a somewhat negative reputation, it is one of the cities that borders one of the largest military installations on the west coast, this being Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM). What many don’t realize is JBLM cooperates with its surrounding communities in a numerous amount of ways to create a more cohesive relationship, and a more positive image for both the base and the cities that border its perimeter. The cooperation between JBLM and the surrounding cities can come in several different forms, from housing to activities and events that inspire not only the public, but also military personnel to participate. Yet with the base and the surrounding cities cooperating with each other there is still a problem that exists, this being that military personnel often prefer to stay within the confines of the base rather than getting out and exploring what off base communities have to offer. This issue directly correlates with Pacific Lutheran University, which is located in Parkland, and its students who live in what is often called “The Lute Dome.”

Here is a brief overview of Joint Base Lewis McChord or JBLM. JBLM is a military installation that is actually composed of two separate installations one being the army base formerly known as Fort Lewis and the second being and air force base formerly known as McChord Air Force Base. The joining of the two installations didn’t happen until recent times as the two became one joint base in January of 2010, and now, even though the two installations are one base they aren’t contiguous because there is a separation of 7.9 miles between them. JBLM is the oldest military installation in the Pacific Northwest with a history of 93 years of service dating back to when as it was known as Camp Lewis, first established in the year 1917.


Joint Base Lewis McChord is one of the largest military installations on the west coast. The vastness of JBLM can be appreciated by the population contained within its perimeter, being that the base is home to 39,590 service members, 52,973 family members, 13,377 civilians, and 31,550 retired personnel totaling to 137,490 people residing within JBLM (“Joint Base Lewis McChord”). The vastness of the base can also be appreciated by its size in acres, JBLM encompasses 414,000 acres, and this would make JBLM the largest if only acres was to be considered for size (“Joint Base Lewis McChord”).

Now to move on to the problem of the military personnel only wanting to stay within the confines of the base. This is not only a problem for military bases, including JBLM, but it also affects the local cities and communities that surround the base. This is best explained by an article written by Phillip Carter and retired Lt. General David Barno called “Military Bases are our Most Exclusive Gated Communities-and that hurts Veterans,” in which they explain the “civil-military divide,” and how the inclusiveness and ease of amenities on base are in fact hurting the military personnel rather than making life easier.

To further explain the “civil-military divide,” an article written by Jason Ukman, “The American military and civilians, worlds apart,” helps with defining it in detail. The “civil-military divide” is more than just the distance between the military and civilians, as stated in the article “84 percent of veterans believe the rest of the country has little or no understanding of the problems faced by the military and 71 percent of the public shares that assessment” (Ukman). This means that both veterans and public agree that the country doesn’t recognize the hardships that accompany military service. The gap between civilians and the military is also shown by how many Americans support the military, as Ukman explains, “most Americans acknowledge they know little about the realities of military service, and, in increasing numbers, they disapprove of or do not pay attention to the wars the military is currently fighting.” This means that most Americans can’t explain what it is that military service members are actually facing and don’t really want to support the actions of what their jobs entail. Americans understanding of what military members sacrifice also explains the “civil-military divide,” as the article states as well “more than 80 percent of respondents said that members of the military and their families have had to make great sacrifices over the decade, but among those who saw those sacrifices as being greater than the public’s, seven in ten saw nothing “unfair” in the disparity, rather they agree that it’s just part of being in the military” (Ukman). This means that Americans do agree that service members have to make great sacrifices, but their sacrifices are no more different than what is faced at home and their sacrifices are only present because of their job.

NowFort_Lewis_Military_Museum_-_tanks_in_yard_01 to go back the issue of personnel staying confined on the base, there is also the reason that military personnel aren’t willing to go out and explore the surrounding communities. This is because of all the amenities that are offered by the base. As Carter and Barno state “through the gates, there’s a remarkably self-contained world,” this meaning that there are several accommodations made for the military personnel like on base housing, schools, stores, child care, and so on. These amenities and opportunities are a very useful resource for the military personnel and their families, but these resources do not only make the military personnel want to stay within the confines of the base, they also hurt the surrounding communities.  Carter and Barno assert in their article that “the military’s self-imposed isolation doesn’t encourage civilian understanding, and it makes it difficult for veterans and their families to navigate the outside world.” This means that, due to the military base being so inclusive, there are minimal opportunity for civilians to understand how the military operates and as well as making minimal efforts to aid veterans in understanding how the civilian culture works.

This issue is not unique to JBLM, but applies to bases worldwide. It also has a direct correlation to a similar issue with Parkland’s Pacific Lutheran University (PLU). The issue that Pacific Lutheran University is trying to deal with is that students who live on campus are not wanting to go out and explore what the local community of Parkland has to offer. This is known on campus as the “Lute Dome.” An article written by Brandon G. Adams titled “Biggest Issues Regarding Parkland” explains why PLU students do not want to leave the “Lute Dome” and also why local community also affects student’s decision to stay within PLU. One of the many reasons the students attending PLU decide to stay within the confines of the campus are due to the negative reputation of Parkland. Adams explains in the article that “crime is an issue” and “there is a lack of policing and prosecution along that road,” meaning that the local community has a problem with crime and a lack of police patrolling the area. Another reason why the students don’t want get involved with the community of Parkland is that many students are not familiar with the area surrounding PLU. As the article asserts, “one of the reasons behind students not engaging the community is the fact that students are not usually from the areas they go to school” and “it is difficult for these students to call Parkland their home,” meaning that students coming from different areas don’t want to get to  know the local community and prefer to leave once they graduate.


Joint Base Lewis McChord cooperates with the local communities, including Parkland, surrounding its perimeter in a numerous amount of ways to help shape the image of the base and the communities. One of the ways JBLM cooperates with the local communities is by hosting events and activities on base that are open to the public, which helps with the “civil-military divide,” events such as Armed Forces Day (“JBLM Family and Morale”). The local communities also provide opportunities to military members to help with the cooperation of JBLM and help with the issue of military personnel staying within the confines of the base, one of the ways the communities does this is by providing off base housing at discounted rates to military members (“Joint Base Lewis-McChord”). These are some of the many ways that both JBLM and the local communities surround the base cooperate with one another to help shape their image and help with the issue of military personnel staying secluded in the perimeter of the base.

Along with all surrounding area, the city of Parkland plays a vital role in Joint Base Lewis McChord’s relationship with its communities. Even though the city Parkland is enveloped in a negative image it still provides many opportunities to the military members of JBLM especially since the city borders the base. JBLM’s and the local communities surrounding its perimeter cooperation with each other comes in many different forms including off base housing, and activities and events that occur on base that are open to the public. Though there are many opportunities provided by both JBLM and the local communities there is still the issue of the “civil-military divide,” and this issue can also be seen in the city of Parkland at Pacific Lutheran University with what is called the “Lute Dome.” Parkland is a city with a negative reputation due to many factors such as crime and a lack of policing, but underneath the blanket of this reputation lies a city with many hidden commodities that are worth giving Parkland a second look.

by Stephen Start


Works Cited

Adam, Brandon. “Biggest Issues Regarding Parkland.” Lute Times 1 Mar. 2013. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

Barno, David, and Phillip Carter. “Military Bases Are Our Most Exclusive Gated Communities — and That Hurts Veterans.” The Washington Post 8 Nov. 2013. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

“Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM).” – Information and Resources for Military Personnel at JBLM. MIT Communications, 1 Jan. 1999. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

“Joint Base Lewis-McChord Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.” Joint Base Lewis-McChord Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

“Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.” Military Installations. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

Ukman, Jason. “The American Military and Civilians, Worlds Apart.” The Washington Post 5 Oct. 2011. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.